Lazy rainy day

Today’s soggy weather provides an opportunity to catch up with a new Falcon Watch post.

The chicks have not yet flown, although two of them — the male and one female — have been practising with increasing enthusiasm and a conspiratorial air. The third seems less excited about leaving the nest ledge, but she will no doubt follow her siblings when the time comes.

The Falcon Watchers themselves began with a rather cold weekend. Moira, Dominique, Nancy, Heather, Jennifer, Chris and Marie helped me out on Saturday, and Lorraine, Pauline, Nancy, Anna, Jennifer, Chris and Marie came on Sunday.

Yesterday, Lorraine, James, Rick, Hedrick, Chris and Marie pitched in, and we didn’t need long pants or sweaters for a change. Hedrick deserves special props because he offered to fill in for me while I joined my peeps at a nearby pub to watch the Netherlands beat Chile. Hup, Holland, hup! (And please note that volunteering for this Sunday’s afternoon shift will earn you similar gratitude.)

The chicks have been progressing steadily from awkward and down-speckled to agile and sleek. Just a few days ago, they were still gingerly approaching the front of the ledge and clumsily climbing onto its side. Now they perch on the very outer limits, staring down and around and contemplating what it would take to get to the next ledge. Yesterday, one of the chicks napped with its entire tail protruding over the side.

They have mastered hopping onto the raised side of the ledge, and are looking more and more graceful as they stretch and flap their wings. Yesterday, the male and one female appeared eager to get going, especially when Ivanhoe and Rowena cruised by, demonstrating what their wings could do. But encouraging the chicks to fledge takes more than a few fly-bys, and the adults have also been cutting back on feedings and are now spending much of their times out of the chicks’ sight. Tough love.

Today, I arrived towards the end of the first shift to find Lorraine and Anna soaked to the bone, but the chicks nonetheless flapping. I was raining so hard by then that I sat in the car and kept an eye on the ledge for a while, before deciding the chicks were highly unlikely to fledge in this weather. There’s still some intermittent flapping and moving about, but they are staying back and out of the rain as much as possible, and so will I.

I’ll check again later today when (if?) the downpour eases up. In the meantime, enjoy the latest photos.

Sunday, June 22, 2014.

I like how the shadow of the chick’s hind end looks more like a wing. Sunday, June 22, 2014.

Sunday, June 22, 2014.

Faceoff. Sunday, June 22, 2014.

Sunday, June 22, 2014.

Sunday, June 22, 2014.

Sunday, June 22, 2014.

Sunday, June 22, 2014.

Sunday, June 22, 2014.

Sunday, June 22, 2014.

Day One

The 2014 Falcon Watch started early this morning, as Moira and I watched the chicks flapping and feeding. Dominique came later in the morning, then Heather and Nancy, which gave me a chance to go home for a few hours. When I got back in the evening, Nancy was still there, and Jennifer, Chris and Marie came out too. (Scroll down to continue reading)

June 21, 2014

Ivanhoe, June 21, 2014

June 21, 2014

Male chick, June 21, 2014

June 21, 2014

The difference in the chicks’ size is clear here, with two female chicks on the right and a smaller male on the left. June 21, 2014

June 21, 2014

Melanistic groundhog, June 21, 2014

We had our best views ever of the chicks, and determined that there are most likely two females and one male, based on size. Because the male is smallest, lightest and most developed — he has the least amount of down left — he will probably be the first one to fly.

But we don’t expect that for at least a couple of days: The feather development and amount of down indicate the chicks are 35-36 days old today, and they usually don’t start flying before 37 days. Also, their parents are feeding them very generously; by our count, they delivered at least two entire pigeons (minus heads) and one smaller bird. The chicks spent most of the day feasting and then napping, with sporadic bursts of wing flapping and preening. The parents will begin withholding food when they want to encourage the chicks to fly. Finally, their flapping is neither frequent enough nor prolonged enough to suggest they’re ready to launch.

Still, we do want to keep as close eye on them. As they spend more time on the outer edge of the ledge, and as they begin practising wing flapping more enthusiastically, they increase the chances of slipping or getting blown off by a gust of wind.

Until they fledge, it’s still enormously entertaining to watch these three little raptors interact with each other and their parents. And for those who remember the melanistic (black) groundhog from last year, there’s now a baby black groundhog!

Three big mouths

It was a soggy expedition to the Data Centre this evening, and I also got a bug up my nose for my trouble. But it was worth it because I was able to confirm that there are still three chicks on the ledge. A few previous visits by Chris, Marie and me since Friday revealed zero to two chicks, so we were a little concerned.

I arrived a dinnertime, just as one of the adults — I think it was Ivanhoe — flew in with what looked like a pigeon. The young ones eagerly gathered around Dad, squawking. He fed each of them in turn, repeatedly plucking bits of flesh from the pigeon and delivering them to gaping maws. Two of the chicks were more aggressive and crowded out the third, but they all looked fat and healthy.

June 17, 2014

June 17, 2014

June 17, 2014

June 17, 2014

June 17, 2014

June 17, 2014

 

Getting closer … to the edge and to flying

A late afternoon visit to the Data Centre brought the best views yet of the chicks — two of them, anyway.

At first I saw only Rowena on the nest ledge, and Ivanhoe at his favourite perch on the far left. No chicks.

Eventually, though, one appeared next to Rowena, and another next to the blob. Both are showing lots of feathers and less down, and one was venturing closer to the edge of the ledge. I hope the third chick was napping and too far back on the ledge to see.

Rowena and chick, June 16, 2014

Rowena and chick, June 16, 2014

A chick does its best to mimic the brown blob, June 16, 2014

A chick does its best to mimic the brown blob, June 16, 2014

Peekaboo! June 16, 2014

Peekaboo! June 16, 2014

Juvenile plumage starting to show through

I got a chance to check on the chicks on Friday after that exhilarating Netherlands-Spain match (the Dutch soundly trounced the Spanish, in case you weren’t paying attention). As usual, photo quality is bleh thanks to distance and windy conditions, but adrenaline may have made me shaky too. Hey, it was an exciting game for my peeps.

The chicks’ faces are now mostly free of down, and their brown-and-buff juvenile plumage is emerging, including obvious flight feathers. In the photo below, they appear to be around 28 days old. So we’re on track to start the Falcon Watch on Saturday, June 21, when they will be around 36 days old. I will probably spend some time at the site on Thursday and Friday as well, in case anyone decides to launch early.

Please do feel free book and shift (or two or three) or to drop by at any time. The chicks are now much easier to spot than a couple of weeks ago.

P1150961

Data Centre chicks, June 13, 2014.